At times it feels like stress is swallowing us whole and as unhealthy as stress is for our body, the way we react to it can be much worse. It is common for people to turn to stress eating during those stressful situations and the foods you chose are usually health hazards. The food you crave is most likely high in sugar, fat and salt since it boosts cortisol levels. We eat carbohydrates and sugary foods because they lead to the brain producing more serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your body that makes you happy. Research has found that stress eating is basically unavoidable but you do have control over which foods you eat when you are stressed.
Everyone’s body reacts to stress differently. If you believe the stressor challenges the power you have over a situation, your body releases the “fight” hormone called norepinephrine. If your stress level rises, you may be overcome with a complete feeling of having zero power over the situation, yourself etc. These results in the “flight or anxiety” hormone called epinephrine being released. When stress lasts for a long period of time, you may feel discouraged and completely overcome by the stress. These feelings set off the hypothalamus, located in the brain, and the kidney’s adrenal cortex to release cortisol. Coritsol is primarily released when you eat and exercise but stressors also lead to a release of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels lead to fat being stored in your abdomen resulting in weight gain.
According to the Huffington Post, there are certain foods you should not be eating when you are stressed.
Energy Drinks: Leads to hyped up feelings from caffeine and an eventual crash from the sugar.
Spicy Foods: Stressed out people cannot process food easily, so eating spicy food can lead to acid reflux and not feeling well.
Candy and Sweets: Sugar increases your level of stress hormones. Your blood sugar and insulin levels heighten. Eating refined sugar causes crashes, irritability and even more food cravings.
Alcohol: Contrary to popular belief, alcohol
does not calm you down. It raises your stress hormone levels, and causes cortisol to be released. Stress and alcohol work hand in hand in a dangerous way because stress actually lowers the effects of alcohol intoxication.
Coffee Drinks: Specialty drinks made with sugary substances like syrups and espresso raise your level of stress. The caffeine hypes you up and even causes feelings of agitation.
Processed Foods: These foods contain excessive “sodium, fat and artificial additives” and may cause increased stress. They also raise your coritsol levels.
French Fries: This food contains a huge amount of fat and carbohydrates and cause a fast energy boost followed by a crash. Also, eating tons of foods that are high in salt risk can cause the danger of hypertension.
Gum and Sugar Free Candies: Eating sugar free candy and chewing gum can cause digestive problems which makes you more stressed and irritable.
It is actually impossible to avoid eating comfort foods when you are stressed out. In a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), it was discovered that replacing your stress foods with lower calorie foods only aggravates your body. Your taste buds are very perceptive at knowing the difference and the low calorie foods do not produce a comforting/happy response in your body. The key to solving your stress eating problem is moderation and balance. You don’t need to eat five Hershey kisses, eat one and savor it. Know what your stress foods are and make sure you add healthy foods in throughout the rest of your day.
~ Ali McFadden
“Sometimes when people are under stress, they hate to think, and it’s the time when they most need to think.”– William J. Clinton